Visual effects house MPC recently handled previs for director Matt Reeves‘ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Previs supervisor Duane Floch, who also handled previs for 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, started on the project in late 2012. Floch and MPC’s executive producer Julian Levi assembled two teams – one working in the company’s Santa Monica facility and the other embedded within the production team on location in New Orleans.
In New Orleans, the MPC crew focused on lens choices, shot-framing and depth of field to aid the VFX process. With interaction between pre-vis and the director being critical, regular meetings in L.A., Vancouver and New Orleans took place.
The scope of previs-work on the film was extensive. In all, over 850 shots went through the previs pipeline between both locations. The shared workflow maintained a cohesive look and feel to the work. Digital assets, including environments, props, characters and animation cycles, were regularly updated and shared from either location, and daily phone calls and cineSync sessions between locations were a regular part of the process.
MPC’s most ambitious sequences were the “colony attack” (150 previs shots, 30 postvis shots and approximately 500 apes), “entering the dam” (30 previs/techvis shots) and “village chaos” (80 previs shots, 35 postvis shots and nearly 300 apes). Each of these sequences was shot on location and required detailed, reality-based pre-vis. The physical constraints of each location played a significant role in how the plates would be acquired.
In the spring of 2013 the New Orleans team increased to 16 artists and the Santa Monica team to 12. Second unit director Brad Parker joined Floch at MPC Santa Monica to begin an intense, collaborative effort on the colony attack sequence – one of the film’s most complex VFX sequences. This work involved several hundred apes and continued through prep right until days before the shoot began and included several trips to the set in downtown New Orleans.
By mid-summer 2013, MPC transitioned from previs into postvis. As the plates came in and the turnover and screening schedule became more aggressive, more artists were added and embedded with editorial on the Fox lot following a strategy used on the previous film.
The company also tapped its Bangalore facility for rotoscoping and match-moving, allowing the postvis team at Fox to focus on story, animation and compositing.